A man and child walk on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 2013.
Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images
October 29, 2015 7:19 AM EDT

China’s state-run news agency has announced the country will end its one-child policy.

The controversial population control program has been in effect nationwide since 1979, and is estimated to have prevented 400 million births, according to the BBC. Exemptions were often made for certain situations, like families from ethnic minorities or those whose first child was disabled, and penalties for noncompliance have ranged from fines to forced abortions. The result has been a great decline in birth rates, troubling to the country as its population ages.

According to a statement from the Communist party, all couples will now be free to have two children.


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